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What If Your Vote Doesn’t Count?

What If Your Vote Doesn’t Count?

What’s the integrity and safety status of New Mexico’s voting process?

BY FRANK CULLEN

What if your vote doesn’t count? Kim Zetter, former reporter for Wired magazine, wrote the 2014 expose book about our outdated electronic voting machinery: “Countdown To Zero Day: Stuxnet And The Launch Of The World’s First Digital Weapon.”

Among her dismaying bits of information was that 42 states’ rely on electronic touch and optical scan systems that are 10 years old — too out-of-date to download the latest security patches. And that Russian intelligence accessed voting systems in 39 states (Zetter cautions that those Russian probes might only have been searching for vulnerability and entry points rather than actual infiltration — as yet). But “by getting into the voter registration databases, hackers can delete voters’ records,” or disenfranchise certain segments of voters by sending them to incorrect polling places.

In some states, voting officials, including secretaries of state, do not have security clearances or training to spot or to block cyber intrusions. Some voting systems have no software security, and they store information as unencrypted files, including passwords and usernames.

Many contracts to program, manage and maintain voting systems are awarded to third-party private businesses whose own systems and cyber knowledge are out of date. Even the voting machines are suspect; they are also out-of-date, and their original and current certification does not include security mechanisms.

Recognizing when a system has been hacked, or simply breached, is beyond the capacity of most elected or appointed official to determine, much less to realize, repel or correct. As Zetter writes, “just because we don’t see — or no one has come out with evidence that the voting machines have been hacked doesn’t mean that the more critical systems haven’t been hacked. … We just don’t have the capabilities in many cases to do forensic analysis of the machines and we don’t have the will in many cases to examine that.”

So, what’s the integrity and safety status of New Mexico’s voting process? Should we assume it is as professional and up-to-date as everything else in New Mexico? Right up there on the charts with education standards, public safety, and job creation? And who is in charge of establishing protection standards and modernization of voting?

Frank Cullen lives in Edgewood, New Mexico, and describes himself as a “former small-time East Coast elected official, merchant, appointee to state and municipal commissions; currently an author, founder of nonprofit organizations and cranky old man.”

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Steve “Mo” Fye is an Instructional Tech in the Culinary Arts program at Central New Mexico Community College and has been known to giggle after making a low-fat, gluten-free, low-cholesterol dish and eating it with a sauce he knows will blow his diet for days.

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